Reflections of Lydia - Part 2
Author: Ademuwagun, Lydia
The data collection team visited the Yendi and Mion districts to conduct interviews with community leaders, health workers, and volunteers. Under the guidance of Betty, a team member and longtime resident of Tamale, we identified interview candidates who were familiar with neonatal health-related interventions in the Northern Region and were willing to share their thoughts on the major reasons for the decline in neonatal mortality. Among the people we interviewed were community health nurses, community health volunteers, district commissioners, opinion leaders, newborn champions, and traditional birth attendants. Conversing with such a broad range of individuals allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the techniques and strategies that communities have employed to achieve better neonatal health outcomes despite limited resources. My colleagues and I also had the opportunity to learn more about the unique challenges faced by people living in communities and the steps that can be taken in order to address these needs.
The woman that I interviewed was a community health volunteer who had lived in the Northern Region for the vast majority of her life. During the interview, she described various community actions and activities that have contributed to the decline in neonatal mortality, neonatal health-related interventions that have been successfully implemented at the community level, and future directions for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal concerning neonatal mortality in the Northern Region. The interview participant emphasized the important role that health education regarding healthy pregnancy, delivery, and newborn care practices; increased access to care facilitated by a rise in the number of newborn care units and transportation mechanisms; and support from development partners such as Ghana Health Service and associated NGOs have played in reducing the number of neonatal deaths.
I was particularly interested by the interview participant’s discussion about what her work as a community health volunteer entailed. During the time she served in this position, she participated in several outreach missions to encourage pregnant women to attend antenatal care appointments, eat a well-balanced diet to prevent the onset of conditions such as anemia, deliver at health facilities instead of relying on the assistance of traditional birth attendants, and bring their babies in for postnatal care visits for monitoring and evaluation purposes. When I asked her about obstacles she encountered in this work, she discussed issues such as the limited access to health facilities caused by poor roads and a lack of motor vehicles and the continued reliance on harmful traditional beliefs and practices that place neonates at risk of infection and death. Despite the progress that has been made in improving neonatal health outcomes at the community level, the interview participant made it clear that the topic of sustainability has not been adequately prioritized and spoke to the need to for a fundamental change in the way that Ghanaian health structures and institutions operate.